Wage a Winning War for Life (Part 3)

Unless we are soldiers, we have no idea how intense a battle can get except by what we see on CNN. Let us watch a portion of the movie “Gladiator” by Russell Crowe so we can visualize the spiritual armor that God gave us. [Watch the opening battle scene in “Gladiator”]

Your battles in life are as real as that battle scene. And there are times you just want to surrender. But the Bible assures us that we can wage a winning war for life. We are not just survivors. Romans 8:37 declares that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Last time we looked into the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the sandals of the gospel of peace. We are to live committed, consistent and confident lives. To continue our study, let us read Ephesians 6:16-17... “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” We will now look into how we can face the day to day challenges of life. Note the words “in addition to all this...” The 1st set of the armor has to do with preparation. The 2nd set has to do with the actual confrontation.

First, we are to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” We are to live OVERCOMING lives. As we saw in the movie, during a battle it would literally rain with flaming arrows. They tipped those arrows with pitch which burns slowly and intensely. It sets ablaze whatever target it hits. That’s why the shield was very important. They designed it to protect the entire body. “It was made out of a big thick plank of wood. It was covered on the outside with metal and sometimes even leather. This outer covering was very thick. The metal would deflect arrows, while the leather was treated with oil to extinguish the fiery pitch on the arrows.”

I like how one translation goes: “In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.”
[3] We are to depend on the Lord, not on ourselves. Paul commanded us: “let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong.”[4]

The arrow symbolizes everything that is against faith. Remember that Paul discussed significant relationships from Ephesians 5:21 to 6:9. The enemy would like the husband and wife, the parents and their children or the employer and the employee to doubt each other instead of trusting one another. The enemy loves to create conflicts rather than confidence among us. He also wants to cause fear instead of faith, panic instead of peace. Now, during those times, they lock the shields together “to form a wall in front, and a roof overhead... [Paul] addresses the whole church corporately as an army, not singular saints. Lone soldiers are easy to pick off!”
[5] We are to defend each other. Galatians 5:6 says, “If you are a follower of Christ Jesus... All that matters is your faith that makes you love others.”[6] Our faith compels us to love each other. So, to overcome, we need to depend on the Lord and defend each other.

Second, we are to put on “the helmet of salvation”. We are to live OPTIMISTIC lives. The helmet obviously protects the head. It was made of metal and leather and “featured a band to protect the forehead and plates for the cheeks, and they left little of the head exposed to danger.”
[7] First Thessalonians 5:8 talk about “the hope of salvation as a helmet.” People worry because they are insecure about the future. Of all the things that we worry about, there is one that we really need to be sure of. We need to settle the issue of our relationship with God. We need to answer the question, “Have you come to a point of your life where you know for certain that if you die today, you would go to heaven?” We need to accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior. He alone can save us.

Keep in mind that once you accept Christ, you are already and completely secure. “Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet.”
[8] We were saved from the penalty of sin. We are being saved from the power of sin. And we will be saved from the presence of sin. That’s from start to finish. “[Satan] would like to rob us of the hope of our eternal future in heaven, of our confidence in Christ’s ultimate and complete victory over all the forces of evil. … [to convince] us that we do not belong to Christ. …Without the assurance of our salvation—or that there is even anything to be saved from—the battle would not be worth fighting.”[9]

I am not saying that we will no longer be tempted to worry. But when we are no longer anxious about our future there in heaven, we can now deal with the things we worry about here on earth. That’s “wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.”
[10] We can face those things with confidence.

Third, we are to “Take... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” We are to live OBEDIENT lives. This is the only weapon we have. It was an 18-inch precision sword for hand to hand combat. It is for offensive. The rest are for defensive. According to the New Bible Commentary, we are “To strike back with truth when we are personally tempted to evil; to strike back with truth when the church is attacked by false teaching... and finally to strike vigorous blows for freedom with the fearless proclamation of Christian truth…”
We fight back when we obey the word of God.

Note that the sword symbolizes the word of God. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword... it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
[11] The last phrase means the Bible “exposes us for what we really are.”[12] The key is not only to know a lot about the Bible but also the Bible knowing a lot about us. One translation goes like this: “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.”[13]

Remember that the God gave Bible not to increase our knowledge but to change our lives. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!”
[14] Hearing is not listening. Hearing is not learning. If you really listened and if you really learned, you would obey. We usually hear, “The truth shall set us free!” Let’s look at what Jesus really said: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[15] Circle the word “then.” Knowing the truth and being set free by the truth comes from obedience.

So, we are to live overcoming, optimistic and obedient lives.

Last October 2, 2006, 32-year-old Carl Roberts entered an Amish school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. He was heavily armed. He took as hostages around 30 students ranging from 6 to 13 years old. While the police was about to rescue the students, Carl shot them point-blank. He killed 5 girls and critically wounded 6 others. Then he killed himself. The police are still investigating the motive behind it. It was a senseless killing.

The Amish people are known for their simple life and sincere faith in the Lord. According to the Associated Press, “In the aftermath of Monday's violence, the Amish have reached out to the family of the gunman... an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.”
[16] One Amish whose three grandnephews were held hostage in the school said, “I hope they [the family of the hostage-taker] stay around here and they’ll have a lot of friends and a lot of support.”[17] CNN quoted an Amish grandfather who said, “We must not think evil of this man.”[18] The report also said that the gunman’s family “may even receive money from a fund established to help victims and their families”.[19]

God’s grace sustained the Amish community in the midst of such a terrible act. And this strength is also available for us to deal with whatever challenges we may be facing in our lives. Let us wear the armor of God. Brethren, “let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong.”

Let us pray...

[1] Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.
[2]Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., “The Believer’s Armor.”
[3]New Living Translation (NLT)
[4]Ephesians 6:10. Contemporary English Version (CEV).
[5]New Bible Commentary.
[7]Charles Swindoll, “Becoming a People of Grace.”
[11]Hebrews 4:12.
[13]The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (The Message).
[14]James 1:22, The Message.
[15]John 8:31-32.
[16] "Amish Prepare to Bury Shooting Victims," Associated Press Report on Yahoo! News (AP Report)
[18] "Amish Granfather: We must not think evil of this man'" CNN.com
[19]AP Report.
[20] Ephesians 6:10, CEV.


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